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Please Pray

Someone very close to me is struggling. Please pray for her. It’s your turn to minister to me. Everything in me is caught up in concern for my loved one, so I can’t write more than this for you this week.

I believe God hears when we call to Him.

I believe prayer is powerful.

I believe realities shift when our hands are lifted to Him.

Please pray for my loved one this week.

Holly


Morning & Evening

Have you noticed how the day drowns out worries that, at night, run rampant? I’m not a worrier by nature, but lately I don’t feel relief when I stand beside my bed at dusk, getting ready to STOP. I feel edgy. Uncertain. What if my mind starts hopping from bad memory to anxious thought to tense fear? Lately, even my dreams are stressful.

What a way to start a new year.

Am I too late to do something about this?

I read a blog post suggesting that the key to embracing God’s peace is knowing how near He is. The blog said, “… if one of [my children] is sad or angry or worried and I lay down beside them on their bed and I take them into my arms and hold them tight, I can feel all of that pent up anxiety begin to leave their body. You see, even as an imperfect father my presence changes my children.”

Yes. I do see. I want that for myself.

How do I bring God near? Yesterday I read Philippians (yes – the whole book) before starting my day. I realized I need to embrace some kind of morning and evening discipline of quieting my thoughts, and focusing them on the One who can give me peace and whose presence can drive away stressful dreams.

I thought I might use the Book of Common Prayer to anchor myself each morning and evening with pre-written prayers – I have an app on my tablet that makes this easy, but I rarely charge or use mobile devices, so last night my tablet was dead.

Instead, I turned to an old, old book that I have loved for years, but forgotten about often. I read the first prayer for the first evening just before sleeping. Slowly. Thoughtfully.

I prayed:

Give me sound and refreshing sleep:

Give me in my sleep freedom from restless dreams:

Give me control of my thoughts, if I should lie awake:

Give me wisdom to remember that the night was made for sleeping, and not for the harbouring of anxious or fretful or shameful thoughts.

Give me grace, if as I lie abed I think at all, to think upon Thee.

Then, each time I found myself awake and my thoughts veering off, I remembered it was my intention to ‘think upon Thee’, and I yanked them back to green places – warm, safe and tranquil places.

I don’t know if this practice of bringing God near by seeking Him with morning and evening prayers is going to make a long term difference in my quest to return to peaceful, fear-free nights, but it can’t hurt and it gives me hope.

Spurgeon, in the preface of his book Morning & Evening, says:

When the noise and turmoil of the day are over, it is sweet to commune with God: the cool and calm of eventide agree most delightfully with prayer and praise. The hours of declining sun are so many quiet alleys in the garden of time wherein man may find his maker waiting to commune with him, even as of old the Lord God walked with Adam in Paradise in the cool of the day.

I like this poetic description of quiet moments spent with God just before sleep.


To leap from day to day like a mad hunter scouring the fields, is an omen of being delivered over to destruction; but the solemn pause, the deliberate consideration, – these are means of grace… (same book)

Do you sense this as well? The chaos of automatic living? Does one day lead to another until weeks slip by, giving you the feeling that you’re not living at all… you’re being run over by life?

Enter: the Solemn Pause.

I need deliberate consideration. Reflection.

You do too.

In 2023, let’s bookend our days with prayer, spending a few moments each morning and evening with the One who made us and sustains us.

His nearness will bring us peace.

My Glow

I feel a sense of desperate panic as Christmas approaches and my body struggles to bounce back from a few bad days. Christmas is supposed to be perfect. No one should feel sick, sad or isolated.

Do you know the story of Peter Pan? Have you seen Tinker Bell’s light flicker? Some days I feel like that. Do you? For those of us who, for whatever reason, are working really hard to keep our lights on this year, here is a passage from my favourite advent devotional:

How will you make it through winter? Through a difficult season of life? Through to the end? You can and will make it through by holding fast to the one who can illuminate the path for you. In this light, you can look backwards and see that his goodness and love have been pursuing you all the way. In this light, you can know that you are not alone. In this light, you can find purpose and joy in helping others along the road. And in this light, one day, the darkness — whatever form your particular darkness takes — will be forever banished.


Thin Spots

Where is heaven?

Someone asked me this last week. I had no answer, but he did.

With ease he traced mentions of heaven through the scriptures, and after twenty minutes, I was convinced. Heaven is God’s space. It’s not north or south. It’s not a geographical location we can navigate to. It’s more like another dimension than another place.

We see Adam and Eve walking with God in the garden of Eden. With God. We are all meant to do that. See Him. Be in His presence.

Big Rupture. We know what happened in the garden. No more walking side by side with our God in the backyard.

A tabernacle, used by Israel, housed God’s presence here on earth for a while. It was portable. Later, they made a solid building – a temple. The middle part of it was called the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God met directly with priests.

Then Jesus came, and the word used in the gospel of John to describe His presence here was tabernacle. He tabernacled among us. I like the continuity of that. I like that God keeps finding ways to be with us.

I like that the veil in the temple, separating us from Him, tore down the middle when Jesus died.

I also like that although right now we walk by faith, it’s not our destiny to always walk by faith. We will see Him. We will walk by sight.

So what does all this have to do with thin spots?

My friend said that he thinks heaven is more of a dimension than a geographical location and God has infused our world with thin spots – spots where His space- heaven- overlaps with our physical world. When we pray, or worship, when we seek Him at church or take communion, we find a thin spot. He asserted that God promises, in His word, to meet with us. He promises His presence when we seek Him in certain ways or places. When two or three are gathered… and so on. We have faith that He means it. We routinely seek Him, believing certain kinds of seeking bring us to a place where heaven and earth overlap.

Thin spots.

Including, but not limited to, gathering with other believers to seek Him.

Have you found a thin spot?

Have there been times when it seemed like the curtain obscuring your view of Him, your sense of His nearness, fluttered?

This is what He made you for.


Listen to this song: For us to be apart was never what You wanted

In This Place

The night is black outside.

Inside, candles are lit. Tealights glow in mason jars and one candle in a circle of tapers flickers. I sit in a hard pew with seven strangers in a tiny, old church. The drive here was harrowing. Country roads. No lights. Gusty wind.

Inside, all is quiet. This sanctuary is just that. Beautiful. Peaceful.

After moving us through prayers and readings, a priest with long robes and a stiff white collar says that we’re going to talk about death during this, the first of four weekly evening gatherings between now and Christmas.

Death.

It seems an unlikely advent topic to me.

In the next twenty minutes he reminds me that there is a God, and it’s not me. I have a Maker. All of humanity does. Eight of us sit listening – breathing – stilling ourselves to hear and he reminds us that from dust we came and to dust we will return. Something is deeply comforting in this moment. Outside this tiny space is farmland, and, miles away, a city. People rush around there, doing things. Busy.

Here, we have stopped.

We are being reminded of Truth.

God made the world.

He made us.

Death comes to us all. It is not the end. He will take us to Him.

And, of course, this being an advent service, there are hints of something good on its way. Right here, right now, we know that God sent us help and hope. We are not in this dark world, doomed to die, alone.

We have each other.

And we have Him.

He has us. He always has. That is perhaps the most healing aspect of these moments – the reminder that our human history is infused with His presence. Sometimes He seems uninvolved.

Absent.


He has not failed to notice us. We are, after all, His. Sometimes I forget, but here in this tiny, old, quiet place, it is easier to believe that we are enveloped by Him.

He’s here.

He always has been.

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